Alright — I’ll admit: the title probably has you wondering what planet I’m actually from, for it appears prima facie absurd to ask such a question in a serious way. Indeed, I even thought that to be the case until a couple weeks ago, when my mother (believe it or not) offered a consideration that changed my mind on the subject. Hopefully you’ll take the chance to read what follows and seriously consider the question, as I have, as it isn’t as absurd — and non-philosophical — as it first appears.
One night, there was a story on NBC Nightly News about some folks in Detroit who were (and are) working to save many abandoned and stray dogs from being euthanised by already-full shelters. Seeing the dogs in the news-piece produced the same reactions I’m used to seeing from my parents: my father disregards the matter entirely (as he’s not a dog-lover), and my mother feels sad for the dogs and their predicament (as she is a dog-lover).
I am also not the biggest dog-fan, and so I started to make a couple of (admittedly cruel) jokes about the owners being smart to abandon the dogs, that caring for them was a waste of money, etc.
What came next sparked my change-of-heart in reflecting on whether dogs were better than humans.
My mother responded to my jokes with the startling assertion that “I’d rather save those dogs than other people, because dogs, on the whole, are better than people.”
Her line-of-thinking was actually surprisingly simple: dogs are always loyal to their owners, and will never betray them, while, for humans, such a quality is an extreme rarity. And it’s not the capacity for loyalty or betrayal that bases her assertion, but the actual use of those capacities, and associated descriptors. Dogs are loyal, and humans do betray others (and not just humans, too).
Now just think about it for a minute. One has a claim in which the turning-point rests on the possession and use of a certain quality, namely loyalty or betrayal, which is the determinant factor over whether a dog or a human is better. And, given the argument, my mother would have to also assert, by implication, that betrayal is a mostly negative quality, whose utilization brings about negative, or “bad,” results, and that loyalty is a mostly positive quality, whose utilization brings about positive, or “good,” results.
The question now is whether being loyal or a back-stabber (and not of the TF2 kind either) is enough to lend to the claim that dogs are better than people. Indeed, I’ve never heard of a dog betraying its owner except in cases of rabies or other conditions where the dog could be considered to be “not itself,” or “out of its mind.” As for humans betraying others . . . . . well . . . . . . just take a look at history. That’ll be more than enough to show just how true that claim is.
And I cannot think of any case (except for probably those who are spying for other countries) where betrayal has brought any good or positive results. I think we can agree that we generally frown upon back-stabbing in any form, as it shows a sign of undependability. And if one cannot depend on someone, then they usually won’t. I don’t see anything good coming from that whatsoever.
For loyalty, my experience has generally been the opposite. Loyalty (and friendship, which seems to come hand-in-hand with this) has been generally seen as a good quality. I have never heard of an instance where loyalty was bad in the same way that betrayal is bad, and I highly doubt that many, if any, such instances even exist.
Perhaps I don’t understand something, but, so far, my mother’s argument hasn’t been that off-track as it might have first appeared. Again, though, the same question remains: is the possession and use of the aforementioned qualities by the aforementioned beings enough to render one being better than the other?
As a litmus test, we might want to ask the following: would you rather have someone loyal to you, even though it’s a dog, or someone who could betray you, even though it’s a fellow human?
Another litmus test might be this: is the qualities of rationalization, as present in humans, enough to make it better than another being, even though that rationalization comes with the capacity, and use of the capacity, of betrayal?
A final litmus test might be: are high-order processes even necessary to render a being as “good” or better than another?
I don’t know about you guys, but considering all of the evil humans have and can bring forth, I can’t help but find the answer to the question of whether dogs are better than humans to be more of a “yes” than a “no.” Loyalty, for me, is actually be a quality I’d rather see in a being than betrayal, even if the loyal one is a dog and the betrayer is a human.
Then again, I might just be crazy. What do you guys think?
George (“The Meager Weakling”)